Hepatitis C- How does it occur and ways to manage it?
Hepatitis C is a viral disease caused by Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) which primarily affects the liver. It causes liver inflammation and sometimes serious liver damage as well. Many people who get infected with Hepatitis C virus, experience mild or no symptoms at all. It is estimated that approximately 7 million people die from hepatitis C-related liver disease every year.
Hepatitis C disease can be either acute or chronic. Persons infected with acute hepatitis shows mild symptoms which last only a few weeks while the person suffering from chronic hepatitis C infection may experience long-term health effects including liver disorders and even liver cancer.
Transmission Modes of hepatitis C virus infection
Hepatitis C virus is transmitted from one person to another by the following means:
- Use of infected syringes, razors and injections
- Sexual intercourse with an infected partner
- Use of unsterilized medical equipments
- Blood transfusion from an infected donor
- An unborn baby may get infected if the mother is infected
Hepatitis C infection, however, does not spread via kissing, sharing food & drinks, casual contact, hugging, holding hands, sneezing, coughing, etc.
Risk Factors for Hepatitis C
Various risk factors for hepatitis C infection may include:
- For healthcare workers –Exposure to contaminated blood or getting pricked by an infected needle.
- For others –
- Receiving a tattoo or piercing from unsterile equipment.
- Having sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.
- Going through hemodialysis for a longer period of time.
- If one was born to a hepatitis C infected woman.
Symptoms and Warning Signs of Hepatitis C
Here are some of the signs and symptoms experienced by the person suffering from hepatitis C infection:
- Poor appetite
- Itchy skin
- Dark-colored urine
- Fluid retention in the abdomen
- Swelling in lower limbs
- Weight loss
- Confusion and drowsiness
- Spiderlike blood vessels on the skin
Diagnosis and testing of chronic Hepatitis C virus infection
Some tests which are performed by the doctors to diagnose hepatitis C infection include:
- Anti HCV antibodies: The human body starts producing these proteins when it finds the Hepatitis C virus in the blood.
- HCV RNA: This test measures the number of genetic materials from the hepatitis virus (viral RNA) in the blood.
- Liver function test: This test measures the protein and enzyme level in the blood which usually rises 7-8 weeks after you are infected.
Use of infected syringes, razors and injections
- Liver cirrhosis: Prolonged hepatitis infection may cause scarring of the liver which makes it difficult for the liver to function.
- Liver cancer: People suffering from hepatitis may have higher chances of developing liver cancer.
- Liver failure: Liver cirrhosis in its advanced stage may cause the liver to stop functioning.
Management and treatment of Hepatitis C
Some ways to treat and manage patients suffering from hepatitis C infection are:
- It is highly recommended to go for regular monitoring and proper checkups every 4-8 weeks which can exceed to 6-12 months, to determine whether the treatment is working or not.
- Proper medical counselling is provided to the patient with acute HCV infection.
- Patients are recommended not to use liver damaging drugs like paracetamol and avoid consumption of alcohol.
- Patients are educated about having safe sex so that they won’t infect their partners during sexual activity.
- Drug addicts who are suffering from hepatitis C infection due to sharing of injection and syringes are treated by an addiction medicine specialist.
- Liver biopsy is recommended in case of chronic hepatitis infection to rule out the presence of serious liver damage or even liver cancer.
- Pegylated interferon (Peg-IFN), Ribavirin, Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), Incivek (telaprevir), Olysio (simeprevir), Victrelis (boceprevir) and Harvoni (ledipasvir or sofosbuvir) etc. are some of the medicines used to treat hepatitis C infection.
- The effectiveness of these medicines will depend upon the extent of liver damage and severity of the infection.
How to Prevent Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C infection can be prevented by following these precautions:
- Stop the use of illicit drugs and seek medical advice particularly if infected needles are being used to inject the drugs
- While having piercing or tattooing, always makes sure that fresh and sterile needles and equipment are being used.
- Avoid having sexual intercourse with an infected person or multiple partners.
- Always use protection while having sex.
- Never share your personal stuff with anyone like razors, nail clippers, etc.
Is Hepatitis C infection curable?
As per the data published by the WHO, approximately 30% of the people with acute Hepatitis C infection get better within 6 months without any major treatment. It also states that around 95% of the infection cases are curable by using various antiviral medicines. Chronic Hepatitis C infection can likely be cured.
Hepatitis infection spreads in humans by various mean, causing mild to severe liver damage. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, seek medical advice immediately. Doctors at YASHODA HOSPITAL & RESEARCH CENTRE, NEHRU NAGAR, GHAZIABAD are highly trained and experienced in diagnosing and treating liver disorders including Hepatitis C infection, with great accuracy and care.
Some of the best doctors and surgeons who treat liver-related disorders in Delhi NCR are:
Dr. Manish Kumar Gupta is one of the finest and leading gastroenterologists in Delhi NCR. He is acknowledged for his work in chronic liver disease, pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Dr. Sushrut Singh is a consultant in the department of gastroenterology and hepatology at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre. He is one of the best gastroenterologists in Delhi NCR. An advanced endoscopist and expert in endoscopic gastric balloon placement for obesity, he is known for performing various gastric and liver-related procedures with great precision.